Letterboxd Is What’s Up

Film lovers, rejoice! Letterboxd is a super-slick social app for tracking your favorite movies! As a lover of film, I found myself wondering where to locate the “Goodreads of film,” and low-and-behold: I found it. Letterboxd gives users the options of importing data from other social sites that you use (IMDB, Delicious, iCheckMovies, etc) if you don’t want to start from scratch. Personally, I have never tracked my favorite movies despite watching several per week! Up until now, IMDB had been my go-to for online film discussion but I view the discussion component of Letterboxd as more robust (though I’ll still turn turn to it for go-to information on actors/actresses and filmography).

Letterboxd describes itself as follows on it’s “About” page:

Letterboxd is a global social network for grass-roots film discussion and discovery. Use it as a diary to record and share your opinion about films as you watch them, or just to keep track of films you’ve seen in the past. Showcase your favorites on your profile page. Rate, review and tag films as you add them. Find and follow your friends to see what they’re enjoying. Keep a watchlist of films you’d like to see, and create lists/collections on any given topic. We’ve been described as “like GoodReads for movies”.

As you begin to navigate the app or site, you’ll notice

You can browse by:

  • List: browse lists or create your own! Examples include: 2019 Oscars, From Willem Dafoe to Willem Dafriend, Men/Boys Crying, Transgressive/Weird Films, Praise-worthy, beautiful, mesmerizing, deserving, diversity-bred movies that were made by people with lots of talent with a ton of effort solely for the purpose of making something good that were snubbed over movies made by people with no talent, and Recommendations For Everyone Who Wants To Watch More Movies By Female Directors But Doesn’t Know Where to Start.
  • People: Like any other social app, you can browse and track new film by drawing on your network and browsing the lists of other individuals who are using Letterboxd.
  • Year: You guessed it. Explore by decade!
  • Popularity: Browse by weekly, monthly, yearly, and “all-time” popularity ratings (based on user feedback). This week’s most popular films are: Fyre, Favourite, Glass, Bohemian Rhapsody, Roma, Green Book, Spider Man: Into The Spiderverse, A Star Is Born, Black Klansman, Vice, and If Beale Street Could Talk. Keep in mind that the film most likely to be most popular during the week will be the most current titles where-as the “of all time” category lends itself to a larger historical spectrum: La La Land, Get Out, Mad Max, Pulp Fiction, The Dark Knight, Whiplash, Moonlight, Alien, The Shape of Water, Silence of the Lambs, etc.
  • Rating: You’re probably familiar with making decisions based on ratings. I know I am! Browse by Highest & Lowest ratings!In looking at the lowest-rated films listed, I’ve gotta say I’m in agreement with my fellow Letterboxd users as Krampus, for example, was easily among the most terrible movies I’ve ever endured. Definitely don’t recommend.
  • Other: This browsing category includes “Most Anticipated”, “Coming Soon” and an A-Z list (or you conduct a good, old-fashioned title search as well).
  • Genre: Most genres listed are typical and traditional (Action, Adventure, Western, Horror, Romance, Science Fiction Thriller, Fantasy), so if you’re looking for avante guard, weird/transgressive, cult classics, documentaries, or films made by Black directors, specifically, you might want to have a look at some of the lists or create your own!

Additionally, the sorting feature is pretty cool as you can skip quickly to genre ratings sorted from Highest to Lowest. According to the Letterboxd community, the Top 3 Horror films in order are: Get Out, The Shining, and A Quiet Place. Fun fact: A Quiet Place was written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, local Quad Cities natives!.

Film lovers and anyone who wants to discover great (or awful) film should definitely check out Letterboxd and start your film diary so you have your newest recommendations and favorite stand-bys at the ready anytime you’re chatting up friends and fellow film buffs! Check out the Official Letterboxd Top 250 List (updated weekly) to get some inspiration!

 

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

I’m finding that a lot of the current books I’m reading contain themes that are very relevant in today’s society and culture. Emily Giffin’s newest novel deals with social media and the broader consequences and societal implications that happen when decisions are made without thinking through the possible  repercussions. In this novel, readers follow three different people as they struggle choosing between their family and their values. The core message present throughout this book is incredibly relevant to people in all walks of life: are you willing to compromise your beliefs, and if so, how far would you go?

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin tells a devastating story from the point of view of three different people: Nina, Tom, and Lyla. Nina has married into Nashville’s elite. Her husband’s tech business has rocketed them into wealth. Her son Finch is attending Windsor Academy, a prestigious private school, and has just been accepted into an even more prestigious college. Their lives are perfect.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs to help put his daughter through school. While they may not have everything, the life that they are living is nothing to be scoffed at.

Lyla is Tom’s teenage daughter. Her mother left when she was young, a situation she has to deal with on a daily basis. Wanting to give his daughter a better life, Tom works hard for Lyla to attend Windsor. Lyla finds herself going to school amongst all this wealth and privilege, while she attends the school on scholarship. Lyla doesn’t always fit in, but lucky for her, she has some friends that help her along the way.

Everything seems to be working out for Nina, Tom, and Lyla. Nina is happy with her husband and son, Tom’s businesses are providing him with the income and stability he needs, and Lyla is succeeding in school. Everything comes to a crashing halt with a picture taken at a party. Finch takes the offending picture of Lyla passed out,  captions it with an offensive saying, and sends it out to some of his closest friends. Spreading like wildfire, the picture soon makes it way out to everyone in the community, including Finch’s parents while they are at a dinner party.

The aftermath of this life-changing picture works to divide the Windsor community into two separate camps: those rallying behind Finch and those sympathizing with Lyla. Dealing with scandal, shame, and blame, Lyla, Tom, and Nina all have to decide how far they’re willing to go in two areas: support of family or standing by your beliefs. Nina struggles justifying the actions of her husband and son, while reconciling their behaviors with an event from her past that begins to poke through as her moral compass. Tom’s reaction and Nina’s husband’s reaction are at odds, leaving Nina unsure of who to side with and how she wants the rest of her life to go. Lyla wrestles with teenage hormones, her feelings for Finch, and her understated and sometimes missing outrage at what was done to her. Tom is extremely upset, but finds himself trying to reconcile Lyla’s somewhat bizarre reaction to this incident with his immense desire to seek revenge, sympathy, and what he deems is appropriate recompense for the wrong done to Lyla.


This book is also available in the following formats:

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Have you heard of Hank Green? Hank is the brother of prolific young adult author John Green. Hank is a genius in his own right though: cocreator of Crash Course, Vlogbrothers, and SciShow. Hank has branched out into fiction now! In his debut novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thinghe has created an intriguing story about a young woman somewhat content in her own peaceful life who becomes an overnight celebrity. Her sudden celebrity is part of a much bigger, stranger, and weirder situation that anyone in the world could possibly comprehend.

April May is stumbling home from work in the wee hours of the morning when she runs into a giant sculpture that seems to have just popped up in the middle of the sidewalk out of nowhere. Delighted – and confused – by this discovery, April does the most logical thing that she can think of: she calls her friend Andy, a local vlogger, and guards this sculpture until he comes with his video equipment. April and Andy decide to make a video with this expertly crafted artwork that she has aptly named Carl. Carl is a glorious piece of craftmanship – a 10-foot-tall Transformer-looking sculpture covered in a suit of samurai armor. After shooting this video, they stumble to their respective homes where Andy uploads the video they shot to YouTube.

Events quickly spiral out of control. The next day April wakes up to a very popular viral video and a rapidly changed life. Andy is understandable overwhelmed as he calls April to report that their Carl isn’t the only Carl. Carls have been discovered in dozens of cities all over the world. They all seemed to have popped up at once with no organization or government claiming ownership of their construction or arrival. April is now considered to be the first person to have had contact with a Carl and thus becomes the center of an immensely intense and ever-growing international media spotlight.

Luckily April has some pretty strong friends and family in her corner. (Whether or not she acknowledges their usefulness is another matter altogether.) These individuals have to fight against April’s growing ego as she believes that she is the only person who could possible figure out the Carl situation. After all, she found the first Carl. April struggles to balance her new fame, old and new relationships, her identity, and concerns over her safety as people quickly realize that the Carls are even more not what the public thinks. April tries to put herself at the forefront of Carl research and becomes even more of the face of the Carl movement as people learn more and more facts about the Carls. People all over the world question the Carls’ existences: why, what, who, etc. April and friends soon realize that the Carls may want something from the people of Earth, but figuring this out may tear them all apart for good.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green is an impressive and surprisingly relevant read when compared with today’s society. This book takes on issues of social media fame, conversations, and calls to arms. It also talks in great detail about how the world in general, and also people at an individual level, deal with change, fear, and the uncertainty that change can bring. I really enjoyed the way that Green builds April from a nobody to an immensely popular celebrity. That juxtaposition between her former and current selves was fascinating as it really showed the dehumanization and other-worldly qualities the general public thrusts on people in the public eye.

I enjoyed this book! Check it out and let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.


This book is also available in the following format:

Keep track of those books! Try Goodreads

The holiday season is here and you are probably going to be interacting with friends and family at gatherings. A popular topic of conversation is books. Well, books always becomes the topic after I mention that I am a librarian. “Oh, it must be nice to sit around and read all day”. Sadly, we don’t get to sit and read all day either. But I do like talking about books! However, I cannot always remember the author or title of a book that I read that I want to recommend to someone.

So what do I do?

Thankfully, there is an app for that. I like to use Goodreads. And if you don’t like squinting at your phone, check out their website. Goodreads is my favorite app/website. It helps me keep track of what I have read. If I find a new author I like, I can search Goodreads for all of their works. Best of all, while I am searching new titles, I can see what other Goodreads users ranked and reviewed a book. So if I see that a book has a low rating, I might put it in my “To-Read” list on the site instead. While you are comparing books at that holiday gathering, you can add those interesting sounding titles to your “To-Read” list on your phone so you don’t forget them later.

Goodreads is not just a site of lists of books and authors. It is social site that allows you to interact with other people. You can see what your friends have read or want to read. You can compare your lists with their lists, see how your rankings compare and read their reviews. There is a news feed that shows you what your friends just added to their list or what book they just finished. Goodreads now offers a personal reading challenge that keeps track of how many books you have read during the year. Also, Goodreads users vote on their favorite books at the end of the year.

Hopefully I have given you a reason to join Goodreads. It is a fun way to keep track of what you have read and interact with your friends. It is great tool for helping you find new books and authors to read as well. When you are at those family gatherings, it will be much easier to add that recommended book on your Goodreads app then to try to remember the book title (and forget it later).

 

 

The Most Dangerous Place On Earth

As someone who devours non-fiction, biography, and memoir, I was surprised to have finished this work of fiction in just shy of two days. To be fair, the book is a quick read (even for self-professed slower readers such as myself).  The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is the debut novel of Lindsey Lee Johnson with impeccable prose and superb character development.  I could even see the book being turned into a film. In a nutshell, the book is broken into  time periods: Eighth Grade, Junior Year, and Senior Year. Within those general time periods, each chapter is further subdivided with titles such as: The Note, The Lovers, The Striver, The Artist,  The Dime, The Ride, The Dancer, The Pretty Boy, and The Sleeping Lady.  Each chapter spotlights each of the core characters whose lives revolve around a tragic incident involving Tristan Bloch, an awkward but brave outcast with an overbearing mother. Over the course of four years, we follow each protagonist as s/he navigates the tough terrain of junior high and high school, further complicated  by  parents, teachers, and digital culture. In many cases, each of these young people–although living in million-dollar beach homes–is forced to establish his or her individuality and navigate adolescence while also living in the shadows of abuse, neglect, and addiction at the hands of the grown ups who are supposed to protect and guide them. As is the case with many young people, these characters can sense when things are awry at home and school; but they lack the agency to be able to articulate those experiences, sometimes in a healthy way. Always looming in this novel is what lies unspoken–what is between the lines.

At the center of this story is Molly Nicholl, a newbie teacher and transplant from central California who is hired on in the English Department at Valley High in the affluent city of Mill Valley in Northern California, roughly a 6-hour drive from Los Angeles. As Molly begins to feel out the culture at Valley High, she finds herself at odds with the other seasoned faculty who are  burnt-out on their jobs, presumably after many years teaching. As Molly reconfigures her classroom into two concentric circles (note, also, the circular themes throughout the novel) so as not to carry on her predecessor’s tradition of an authoritarian, old-school classroom, she endures pushback from teachers who believe she is crossing the line with regard to her relationship with the students. After a car crash and the exploitation of a female student on social media, Molly is questioned about the inappropriate nature of her commenting on her student’s social media threads–even though her comments stemmed from genuine concern about the well-being of her students . Early on in the book, Molly is eager to dig deeper into the lives of her students–to see them not merely as students but also as human beings who have complex lives and much promise.  Molly once asks “Isn’t it our job as teachers to help our students?” She was quickly put in her place when her co-worker says: “No, your job is to teach.” But what does it mean “to teach”? What does teaching–truly teaching–entail?

I think my teacher and parent friends would enjoy this book, especially because it sheds light on a number of questions–namely: What is the role of the teacher? How can teachers truly effect change and the lives of their students if they are forced to keep students at arm’s length? Can teachers truly be effective if they relate to their students on only the most basic, superficial levels? Is it the role of teachers to dig beneath the surface to enable students to identify and pursue their interests? Are teachers supposed to protect and help their students? How can parents and teachers be better aligned for the benefit of the student?  Must there always be such a deep and wide chasm between young people and adults–one in which “adultness” itself is often dishonest, distrustful, and cynical? I have to say that by the end of the book–and yes, it’s just the idealist in me–I feel like Molly compromised too many of her ideals in an effort to play it safe. I mean, on one hand, I can certainly see why she would opt to play it safe, given the events leading up to her transition from newbie mover-and-shaker to cautious, jaded professional.  In one particular scene, Molly receives an essay from Callista who has accepted and processed, through the therapeutic act of writing, her role in the tragedy of Tristan Bloch. This was the moment that Molly had been waiting for the past three years: to play an encouraging and inspiring role in helping  students reconcile their places in the world and hopefully help them tap into their potential. I mean, here was Callista sharing a deeply painful experience with her teacher and in a sense, looking for encouragement and validation. But Molly, perhaps afraid to assume a role other than “superior” or “teacher” misses the opportunity entirely. Instead, she writes Callista a typical response that an English teacher–not a mentor–would write. However, the implications of Callista’s writing–how she knew the fine details of the path Tristan took to the bridge–were curious, troubling. Again, the power of the unspoken demands attention.

This books asks far more questions than it answers; so if you’re ok with ambiguity, you’ll love this book. I’m still wondering about these characters–what becomes of them, if they ever get to realize their true potential. Reading this book also forced me to look back on my own experiences in junior high and high school, which, like most young people, was a mixed bag of good, bad, and ugly. When I was young, I did not have vast social networks at my fingertips and cyber bullying wasn’t yet a thing. So much happens to young people online–entire worlds exist out of the reach of unwitting adults. While I tended to despise the parental and authoritarian figures in this book, I was nonetheless sickened by how these students treated each other. But unfortunately, I also got the sense that Emma, Damon, Callista, Ryan, Elisabeth, Nick, and others were just on their own, abandoned even. I certainly found fault with the parents: what is the role of the parent in providing guidance and support to their children? How can effective parenting provide a more equitable, just world? In essence, how can effective parenting be the anti-thesis to bullying, suicide, sexism, and abuse? How should parents be meaningfully involved in the lives of their children without being overbearing and suffocating? These are just some of many, many questions I have after finishing this fantastic debut by Lindsey Lee Johnson, which has drawn some comparisons to Thirteen Reasons Why.

Charlatans by Robin Cook

Medical school is daunting, add in the added responsibility you take on the further and further you go in teaching hospitals and even before residents are hired on as staff, they are forced to make tough decisions. Robin Cook’s newest medical suspense novel, Charlatans, deals with the tough calls that doctors have to make on a day-to-day basis and just who is around to make sure those doctors stay honest. No one knows this more than the newly minted chief resident at Boston Memorial Hospital, Noah Rothauser. His new super chief position means that he is now responsible for all the surgical schedules, the training of the new residents, and handling the Morbidity and Mortality conferences that happen every time a patient dies. Noah is hopeful that the recent updates to the BMH’s operating rooms will be positive and will decrease the number of deaths that happen during surgery. After all, Boston Memorial Hospital is a famed teaching hospital that is known for being at the top in terms of medical advances and is also known for hiring only the best of the best. Updating those operating rooms will only help, not hinder.

That’s what Noah thinks anyway. All is going well until the death of a healthy hospital employee during a routine procedure. An anesthesia error seems to be the cause of death, but Noah doubts that. He believes that Dr. William Mason, a world-class surgeon, juggled patients and made a fatal error during the surgery that cost the patient his life. Mason won’t go down without a fight however and blames the anesthesiologist, Dr. Ava London. Noah isn’t sure who to believe, but does his due diligence into the background of this case to find out what really happened.

Thinking this case is behind him, Noah tries to move on. More anesthesia-related deaths occur however, and Noah finds himself having to question everyone that was involved in each case. Secrets come out and Noah finds himself getting to know Dr. Ava London more closely as he works with her to find out what really happened to cause those deaths.

Noah has to figure out what happened quickly because he soon realizes that there is much more to Ava than he originally thought. His own job and credibility are soon put to the test. Noah’s search for the truth is at an all time high as he works to figure out who really is at fault surrounding those three deaths and who is really telling the truth. After all, we all have something to hide, don’t we?


This book is also available in the following formats:

Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave

Sunshine Mackenzie is living her best life – a hugely popular YouTube cooking star, she has published several cookbooks and is about to get her own television show. She has a beautiful home, a loving husband and millions of fans on the verge of mega-stardom.

And then she gets hacked.

In a single day she loses her reputation, her home, her fortune and her husband when someone hacks into her Twitter account and starts revealing secrets that start showing the cracks in Sunshine’s perfect facade. She and her team scramble to contain the damage but it’s too late, the truth is out there and the media is eager to expose every lie and blemish. Finally, with nowhere else to go, she must return to her hometown and her estranged sister and confront what she has become and where she came from.

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave examines living authentic in an inauthentic age. Even us ordinary people present a carefully crafted image of ourselves and our lives through the many social media platforms that are so prevalent now. I know for myself, I only post beautiful photos of my garden or my cat doing something cute, not the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Does that make our lives any less authentic? Is what we post “real life”, or just a facade? It’s an interesting debate to consider and Hello, Sunshine raises lots of interesting questions. Well worth a read.

You by Caroline Kepnes

You by Caroline Kepnes is a tale of unrelenting passion, love, and desire told through the eyes of a smitten young man. Joe Goldberg works in an East Village bookstore. His life is changed (such a cliché, I know, but just wait) the day Guinevere Beck, a young aspiring writer, walks into his bookstore. He instantly wants to be with her. Everything about her appeals to him: the way she walks, the section she visits in the store, the fact that she doesn’t check out ‘normal’ books… She’s super sexy, tough, smarter than any other woman he knows, and is drop-dead gorgeous. He has to have her.

Striking up a conversation with Beck gives Joe just enough information to see that he is perfect for her. She just doesn’t realize it yet. Joe has to find a way to convince her and to, most importantly, learn more about her so he can become her perfect boyfriend. In his quest to learn more, Joe realizes that there is more to Beck than he initially thought, that she isn’t quite as perfect as she seems to be.

Joe is obsessed with Beck and the more he gets to know her, the more he needs to be with her. Beck has her own life separate from Joe. He doesn’t want to push Beck too hard to get her to be in his life as much as he wants her to be. Joe must be clever and soon his cleverness pays off. Each becomes obsessed with the other, a situation that has the possibility to abruptly spiral out of control, to even turn deadly.

You has the haunting, thrilling, psychological messages of a good suspenseful romance. The sociopathic voyeurism and manipulation that runs rampant throughout this book had me honestly feeling a little bit paranoid. Seeing the lengths that Joe went through to learn about Beck and how sneaky Beck was made me question my social media use and whether I’m using it too much. I also questioned whether I was simply connected online too much and whether I needed to start unplugging from the internet more often. The differentiation between what we consider to be our private and our public lives, as well as the ease that those lives can be monitored by outside forces and even hacked, were all things that I thought about as I was reading this book.

This psychological thriller creeped me out. In a good way. I have read many, many thrillers from the victim’s perspective. Said books are always about their quest to find out who is stalking them or hurting them or who is leaving weird things for them. These books may also be from the point of view of family and friends who are looking for the missing person. I had never read a book from the other person’s point of view, from the point of view of the person who is completely and thoroughly obsessed. I loved and was simultaneously repulsed by this book.


This book is also available in the following format(and that’s the one I listened to it in):


The sequel to this book was released in 2016. It’s called Hidden Bodies and it continues into the exploration of Joe’s life. I’m hoping the sequel digs more into Joe’s past and gives us more of an idea of why Joe behaves the way that he does.


 

Prez, Vol. 1: Corndog-In-Chief by Marl Russell

prezIn a world where corporations have the power to rule the world, where social media has infiltrated presidential elections, and when the age restriction on who can run for president has been abolished, you know things are bound to get interesting really quick. Prez, Vol. 1: Corndog-In-Chief tells the tale of this messed-up world and all the deals happening behind the scenes.

In the not so distant future, 2036 to be exact, the world is topsy-turvy. People vote for elections via Twitter, corporations have the ability to run for President, and a strain of cat flu has infested the world, one that costs millions of dollars to cure and that is infecting people worldwide. One of the people infected and dying is Beth Ross’ father. Beth becomes viral-video famous, an internet celebrity named Corndog Girl, after an unfortunate incident at the fast food restaurant where she works.

The country is in the midst of a presidential election, one that is being controlled behind the scenes by a few major corporations. Two candidates have been presented, but a famous video blogger has chosen to endorse Corndog Girl for President instead! She’s eligible to become president, something the corporations never believe would happen, so they write her off. Joke’s on them! She becomes president and soon finds herself thrown into a messed-up world of politics and corporate power grabs. Beth is left to fill her cabinet with people she can trust and all the while try to figure out how if she has the power to take back control of this upside-down world. This graphic novel is full of snark, witty social media commentary, and a glimpse into what our lives could possibly be like if corporations are given more control over our way of life.

Batgirl: Volume 1 Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher

batgirlIn 2011, DC relaunched their comic lines as the “New 52” after the “Flashpoint incident” when the Flash went back in time to try to alter the events of the present. This changed the storylines of other DC characters, resulting in DC discontinuing some titles, starting new ones, starting the old series over at #1, but also keeping the continuity of some of the more popular series. All in all, DC debuted 52 new titles, hence the name: the “New 52”. (A lot of other things have changed with DC since the New 52 was released, but that’s for another day and another blog post..)

Batgirl was one of these reboots. Before the Flashpoint event, Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, had been shot and paralyzed by the Joker as revenge against Batman. She goes on to be the Oracle, becoming the information access queen for the entire DC superhero community, and further joins forces with the Huntress and Dinah to become the Birds of Prey. The important thing to remember about pre-New 52 Batgirl is that she remains paralyzed.

In Batgirl: Volume 1: Batgirl of Burnside, Barbara is no longer paralyzed. She has moved to Burnside, considered the trendiest neighborhood in Gotham City, to go to college and work on the algorithm she designed after she was horribly injured. Right after she moves in, her friend Dinah, aka the Black Canary, comes and lives with her after a fire destroys all of her belongings, PLUS all of Barbara’s Batgirl gear. This gives Barbara the opportunity to reinvent her costume, but also forces her to get creative to find new weapons sources.

What really hooked me into this graphic novel is that the content and the art style are made to hook into a newer generation. Barbara lives in the hip neighborhood, is going to college, has friends that are working with new computer tech, and is able to attend a wide variety of new concerts and events. Barbara and her friends are all over social media and the majority of the characters in this book are either all in college or in that young up-start community. With hashtags galore and an imposter Batgirl popping up all over various social media platforms, Barbara is forced to “re-brand” the Batgirl image in order to prove that Batgirl is not a nuisance, while also struggling to figure out where the lines are between what she should do as a super hero and what she should let the police handle. Barbara clearly struggles with a lot of the issues that young adults face when they are going away to college and the fact that she is a superhero doesn’t detract from her problems, it instead adds a necessary level of perspective and understanding that people of all ages can benefit from.